Expungement is the process of removing records of criminal charges or convictions from public records. This process does not mean that the person is innocent or pardoned for the crime; however, for certain crimes, a judge may decide to allow individuals to gain back some of their privacy through this process.
Expungement is a complicated process; depending on the crime committed, you may be eligible to have your record expunged. The court considers many factors in these situations.
Access to criminal records
Some groups may be able to view your criminal records. Some parties that may request your records include employers, landlords, lenders and voter registration officials. For example, employers may ask on job applications if they may access your records. Also, North Caroline provides public access to criminal records by visiting the county clerk.
Criteria to have records expunged
To have your record expunged in North Carolina, your case needs to meet certain criteria; however, if the court found you not guilty or if they dismissed the charges, then you are immediately eligible for expungement. If the court convicted you, the following are some stipulations for misdemeanor or felony charges:
- A misdemeanor is eligible for expungement after five years
- A felony conviction is eligible for expungement after 10 years
How to file for expungement
According to the North Caroline Judicial Branch, you need to file a petition for expungement with the county clerk in the county that charged you with the crime. Depending on the specifics of your case, you may need to provide documents from people citing your good character.
The process for expungement commonly takes between two to six months to process, although it may take longer. There is a fee required to file the petition, which is usually about $175; however, there is a form that allows you to request filing without paying if you do not have the means to afford it. For dismissed and “not guilty” charges, there is no fee requested.